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Is Federer’s 17 Grand slams record immortal?

This is one of most important questions plaguing the tennis followers at the moment. While fans of Nadal and Djokovic keep doing their math, Federer fans continue to pray. While Djokovic is 5 grand slams away, Nadal needs just 3 more. On the other hand, Federer himself is pushing everything he has got to see if he can take it further away to 18 or more. When the world is busy focusing on these 3 aging champions, can an outsider come and cross them all. While it is not possible to predict the future, we can settle for the best alternative which is to look into the past to provide some answers.

I looked at the age of Champions of every grand slam starting 1968 French Open which is the start of Open era till the 2016 Wimbledon where Federer almost came closer to making it 18. I plotted the below graph to understand the age at which the champions won their grand slams, 193 in total.
graph_ageVwinsIt can be noticed that bulk of the wins happened between the ages 21 to 27, almost 70% of the total grand slams. On the right extreme, the total wins for ages 30 and above are less than 10%. We can fairly establish the fact that tennis is a young man’s game with not much to offer for people over 30. Point to note at this very moment is while Federer is currently 35, Djokovic and Nadal are respectively 29 and 30 years old. The last time someone won a Grand slam in their 35, it was in 1970s and Federer has to better that if he has any plan for the Grand slam number 18. Djokovic and Nadal face high odds of history against them apart from their injuries if they need to have a shot at being the greatest tennis player ever.

If odds are high against the closest rivals like Nadal and Djokovic what is probability for an outsider to beat the number 17? We should turn our attention to another metric, the average Win Age, which is the weighted average of Age and number of wins at that Age.avgage

In  simple terms, Avg Win Age tells us that Roger Federer has accumulated half of his 17 wins, before the age of 25.59, For Nadal it was by 23.71. The intuition from the above table being, if anyone needs to challenge the 17 slams, they need to win at least half of them before the age of 25 – 26. This, is half the work on Mission-17 which Nadal and Djokovic have done and hence are close enough to think of challenging Federer. This is pretty much why no one else in the current top 10 may not even come closer to threaten the record. If it is an outsider, It has to be a teenager who is bettering his serve at this very moment, whose name we are yet to hear.

Federer won 17 because he absolutely dominated for few years across the grand slams. Nadal won 14 because he started early at 19 and maintained his Roland Garros record almost intact. Djokovic winning 12 is a humongous record in itself because never in the history of tennis a player had the likes of Federer and Nadal against them. Data and history tell us that it is difficult for Nadal or Djokovic or Federer himself to beat the record. However, me being a Nadal fan, still do believe that he is a phoenix and he will rise, me being tennis fan, still believe that Djokovic is playing tennis in a different league and he is capable of two or at least one more calendar grand slam.

Data and insights, however good they are, not as much as Nadal’s grit or Djokovic’s will. They are champions for a reason. They will continue to challenge until very last day before they retire. Federer is of course the greatest of the tennis players. He will continue his pursuit for the number 18 and further. For people like us, who are in it for the joy of watching tennis, what more can we ask for?

P.S: I have high admiration to women’s tennis too and I think we don’t even need an analysis to conclude that Williams’ record shall last forever.

P.P.S: fivethirtyeight.com (fantastic website, please visit) have done a similar analysis couple of years ago on age and wins here . However, the inspiration for my post generated from a discussion over coffee with a Federer fan. I think he’d be happy with my conclusion of the analysis.

P.P. P. S: All data sourced from wikipedia and processed on MS Excel which I paid for. (There you are, GoI, no torrents)

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The art of ‘writing’

If somehow the title of this post made you think it’s about the writing and about great writers, I have a simple one word answer, ‘NO’. When it comes to writing, I am a Jon Snow, I know nothing, I am a nobody. The post is rather about writing, the verb. Pens, papers and actual writing with the hand. I came across this article shared in twitter today about the relevance of handwriting and it got me thinking, about my childhood, obsession with writing and its current (sad) state. While I mostly agree with the writer’s conclusions I try to recollect in this post about the teachers’ obsessions with our writing as children, the struggle of my friends, my own battle to better my mom at writing and how obsolete it became after we passed our high school.

Writing is like the part 3 of the communications module parents take us through after speaking and reading. They never treated the communications module as a regular task, like say, walking. Communication was no walking. For walking it was the means, it was the end goal. Not so easy with the communication. You were expected to improve as you grew up. You were expected to read faster, faster everyday than every yesterday. You were expected to speak more words, better words with every additional sentence you speak. You were expected to write better, clearer and sometimes cursive or italics depending how your mom and dad liked it. My mother was no different. Being a teacher and a person who has the best handwriting among everyone she knew, was in fact harsher. I was asked to write random English lines which she would dictate day after day while I was getting used to my first standard. Yes that’s right, I was practicing handwriting in my very first year of schooling. Although I liked the process and I thought I actually wrote well, everyday, she could find something, a less curvy ‘y’ or a little taller ‘t’, everyday. It was like music to her, an art form, and she was set to perfect every single note of her son while I just wrote not understanding what I wrote and not knowing why I wrote. As Steve Jobs said, I could only connect the dots looking backwards. I could feel the music while in high school and there after. They were no longer letters and fonts to me, they were notes and tunes and I enjoyed playing them. I still do.

Being the kid with the best handwriting in the class was like ‘my thing’. I was possessive about it. It felt like my moment, when friends asked me to write their names on the first pages of their books. With each passing year as new kids joined my class, I was on the lookout. If there was a kid with a better writing, I looked for what made their handwriting better. During my 8th, my handwriting wasn’t italics and I heard one new joiner could. I learnt it in the next week. Sometimes I adapted few specific letters from people. While studying 9th, my teachers concluded that a girl in 10th standard had the best writing in the school. I managed to get my hands on a notebook of hers and worked weeks trying to match hers. Being asked to write for the school notice board was my achievement, Not cricket, not athletics. While English was easier and I was adapting and bettering it, I could never better my language, Telugu. I envied my friend who could write the famed ‘bapu’ font at ease while I never could. Once computer was introduced in lives, I even tried to copy the fonts and match them.  The teachers encouraged every bit of it too. For they assumed handwriting might get the additional marks that everybody wanted. I actually tested pens and found out when they wrote better during their lifetimes. Such was the obsession during high school. I was playing music, bettering my notes.

The way of judging a kid turned objective from the age of 15. Nobody cared how you wrote anything. Your entire life dependent on how well you could choose one of four options and pencil a tiny circle, some 100 – 150 of them. My mother still cared a bit though, just a bit while not thinking how I failed miserably in not choosing one of the four options correctly, some 100 – 150 of them. The obsession remained in Engineering too. Writing my practical record, as absurd as it sounds technically was when I got to write, to play music again. Despite being the last ones to certify my records every semester in my class, I in fact took great care of them while writing and I have stored everyone of them at home. They are my records after all, musical I mean, not laboratory.

Writing literally ceased once I entered workplace. There’s excel for everything. There’s no art in typing. But workplaces care as much about art as much as they care about you. Zilch. At the maximum, people scribble, yes they actually call them scribblers. I am nothing like the 15 year old I used to be, I scribble too for the lack of time. But the obsession is still around. Last week in a team event when HR asked us to summarize a discussion on a A3 paper, I took the pens to do ‘my thing’.

While handwriting is glorious and an amazing art form, I had a problem when it was imposed on friends who had no interest to better their writing. Art can’t be imposed. As long as the handwriting was readable to a non drunk eye, it should be okay. Considering how technology is shaping up the way we learn and communicate, handwriting shouldn’t be imposed even at the school level. The next generation kids should be good at communication not experts at cursive writing. No stopping if they do want to write better, but I hope writing would be replaced in the communications module the parents teach their children. I am not asking to scrap it altogether, just have a look around reassign the priorities to match the realities.

I still do love to write, My mom still writes better than me.

Mom and her smartphone

My mom has always used one of the best mobile phones among her peer group. In fact nobody I knew in her circles has changed as many mobile phones as she did, thanks to her son. To her credit, she paid for all of them and didn’t mind buying a new phone every year or whenever the son got bored with the existing phone. What followed the purchase is she received the older ones every time. Sometimes a little wrecked, sometimes with one or two scratches on the screen. However, she is pretty excited every single time this transfer happened. She doesn’t know that her phone was a mid range or last year’s flagship product. She doesn’t care. She’s an eternal optimist, because she always asked me about the new features in the phone she’d be receiving. She probably never used them when I am not around. It’s an upgrade to her and she saw it like that.
One such transfer happened yesterday and it was different and special on two notes. When I purchased HTC desire 816 an year ago, it became the first mobile phone I paid the money for. When yours truly bought oneplus two a week back, the HTC warmed up to move to the mother’s safe hands. Where it’d be respected for what it is and not compared to phones twice it’s specs. Where it wouldn’t be dropped at all. Yesterday mom received a phone I paid for and it was her first smart phone.
I wanted to preload the phone with a few apps but all I could think of was ‘talking ginger’. This is one app she played with every time I bought the iPad home. It fascinated her that the app could sing back even complex lyrics of Telugu and Tamil songs she threw at it. I added Skype and WhatsApp as well. Skype would open the prospect of a video call with me and whatsappability is apparently a new achievement among her circles. What happened later was so beautiful and that is something I would remember for a long time. That is something I would like to capture in mere words here as well.
I showed talking ginger first when I opened it and she was already happy that she could play with it everyday. As the phone needed a nano sim, I didn’t do much. As mom asked repeatedly about teaching her Skype and WhatsApp, I shared my 3G through a Hotspot. Seeing that, she was as excited as if I had solved the Reimann hypothesis. I called her on Skype from another room and for the next five minutes she was smiling in joy. She wanted to try again, she called this time. It worked again, happy smiles again. Skype was a personal achievement for her. It was magic. For she never thought she could video call me when I am away from home. It was the stuff of films for her. Now probably she might even stay awake to have that two minute Skype call when I reach my flat after office, late in the night.
WhatsApp is a different game now. In Skype the user has to touch a icon once and it’s done. Over here she has to read and type back for the communication to happen. Also of course the blue ticks. Aunts who’d wish her welcome might turn sad that she hasn’t replied after seeing it. And the qwerty keyboard maze. The joke she made when we bought our first laptop about how do people search for letters on this has come back to her now. She was ready for the challenge, she wanted to get on WhatsApp. While I verified the number, I asked her to choose a display picture. She chose a pic with both of us and in which I took most of the screen space. Those kinds of pictures we keep on their birthdays as our DPs. She chose that as her best picture to display. Indian parents, I tell you. When we are online finally, she couldn’t believe that contact list of people who already were on WhatsApp would appear. I taught her to checkout people’s DPs and a tip how not to video call while doing it. She received a welcome message from a colleague. She opened and read it aloud. Just like I had read my first tinkle comic. A cousin of mine has sent her that the DP was nice. She had to reply. She took a full minute or two to say thank you but she did it. I was just watching from a distance. She read me all the jokes and quotes she received. The teacher that she is, she found a spelling mistake in a forward message. Today while I was sleeping she asked me how to forward a pic she had received. I turned and slept again. She woke me up after sometime to tell me that she has done it, that she has forwarded a pic. This time I didn’t sleep. I smiled. Just like she did 15 years ago, when I pulled her out to balcony to show how I started riding the bicycle. She sounded like she achieved something. She did. My mom is now on WhatsApp. Trivial as that sounds it was a big deal to her. To learn something, some young people thing at 56.
The other thing she asked me to teach was how to take a selfie. Now you know where the genes came from. She is figuring out the smartphone puzzle. One little piece at a time. I am not expecting her to emo text me on WhatsApp. I am just as happy seeing a blue tick on images I send her. For all that counts she has opened the app and seen my message. She might never solve the qwerty maze. Or she may get on Facebook one day, even though I hope she doesn’t. There’s a long way for her to go now. She has taken first steps and it’s beautiful to watch so far. For now she can WhatsApp and video call me. She is probably going to tell everyone she meets about this for a few days. She can. It was an achievement. While I type all this, she is back to playing with ginger. It still fascinated her. Maybe I pushed aside all the interesting books she bought me to play with a toy. Maybe she would have said, he’ll grow up fine. Yes mom, you will be fine too, with this new smartphone.

P.S: Here’s something a 100 times more beautiful which inspired me to write this.
https://storify.com/b50/conversation-with-npueu-shyvish-dreamy-mommy-and-c

Cricket and Player retirements and Childhood

Over the past few days, one picture with close up shot of Sehwag, Laxman, Dravid, Ganguly and Tendulkar (in that order) floated on the Facebook/ Twitter timelines a lot. What was more interesting was the tag line it had, ‘My childhood is now officially over’. That line and that picture brought back memories.. of Sharjah, of Natwest, of 2003 World cup, of Pakistan series and a lot more. When someone says it officially ended, they’re hinting that its just a formal ending and the logical ending happened long back. The logical ending was realizing Sachin and Sehwag are not going to open the innings, realizing Ganguly wont be heading for the toss, realizing Dravid won’t be coming at number 3 to rescue the team for the umpteenth time like he always does. Childhood began to end when Ganguly decided to wave good bye. Now its the ending of the ending.

I am a 90’s kid. Cricket wasn’t a sport for the 90’s kids. It was like a routine, a natural part of living. Parents used to teach the basics of cricket just like they teach to write or to ride a bicycle. But parents romanticized the 70’s West Indies or the 80’s Australia, By the 90’s It was a just a sport to them. When we were being introduced to cricket, Sachin was doing his thing in Sharjah. If that’s the first image of the sport anyone sees, they’re sure going to be hooked to it, forever. We did get hooked of course. It definitely was not going to be just a sport after that. High school is when you graduate enough to discuss cricket with friends. We discussed more about Sachin, Dravid than Math or science. Sachin was our Math, Dravid was our science. It wasn’t intelligent stuff, not even close. It was pure Infatuation, with Sachin’s cover drive or Dravid’s square cut or Ganguly’s front foot inside out shot or Sehwag’s sixers over third man. We didn’t even know how those shots were played, even we learnt the names of those later. We just liked looking at them. Cricket was the only sport we played during the hours we weren’t made to sit in a classroom. Sportstar was our Economic times and Livemint. That was a phase. A phase were I loved just watching cricket. Not analyzing it. Just stare at my heroes like staring at a magnificent sculpture or a calm sunset.

I still do watch cricket. Its neither calm nor like a sunset anymore. There are so many variables now apart from my AVP expecting me to come back to work from cafeteria. I am not in it to just watch, I turned greedy. I want Kohli to score a century, I want Dhoni to not waste balls, I want Ashwin to be economical. Childhood me would’ve wanted to just watch Kohli’s pull shot or Dhoni striking the ball hard or Ashwin to just turn the ball and hit the off stump. Its like infatuation turned to love in the late 2000s and now to post marriage life in mid 2010s. Everything appeared special when it started and then I started analyzing each innings and finally now finding small mistakes my cricketers make. Heroes have turned cricketers now.

Every small reference to the cricket of early 2000s reminds me of my infatuation years. The retirements of Zak and Viru did the same. It evoked a lot of memories. I Can never forget Viru going for the sixer when he was on 295. Me being a left hander, It was always Zak’s bowling action I wanted try every day. Viru and Zak represent the last of the cricketers from the infatuation phase. Yuvi might retire soon and then Dhoni too maybe in a few years. But they belong to the love years. It’ll hurt but may not be as much. Because the childhood was different, It was magical. With these retirements it reminded me that my childhood was over. It was amazing while I was living them. Watching the highlights or reading about those matches once in a while will remind them again.But.. The visuals are still pretty clear. The visuals of Sachin in Sharjah, of Dravid in Adelaide, of Sehwag in Multan, of Laxman in Kolkata, of Sourav in Natwest. The visuals have never faded away, letting me know that the childhood actually is still with me, in my memories.

How better to end my post than to actually post the picture we started the post with

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My childhood is now officially over. It’s just in the memories now.

Saving the internet

If you’ve been recently a little active on social networks or social circles, there would’ve been a few mentions about Net neutrality. Net neutrality, sure has a jargon ring to it. As such the topics and people are so polarized these days that I care about them as much as Rohit shetty cares about logic. We are better off with clickbait-mind-will-be-blown articles than getting into a right wing Vs liberal fight and getting the mind almost blown. Except, the debate of Net neutrality is different. Reading up for a minute about this will tell why this is different. It is not a regular outrage by a set of people about something the government might do. It is more like the equality struggle fought in 19th and 20th centuries, this time it’s a cyber version of it. Okay, I overstated it a little, but the point is this is important and will affect us very directly. If we all don’t stand up for it, the very internet, where every single engineer takes solace might change it’s form. In simple terms it will remove level from ‘level playing field’ to aspiring startup community and turn costly with lesser choices to us the users of it.

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Net neutrality in simple words is the freedom to the users of the internet to access the content over the internet without the service provider interrupting it, of course assuming we pay the service providers for the internet pack. The service provider is simply the owner of the pipe through which the data flows on the spectrum, a leased resource. The service providers bid for the spectrum allocation and develop the infrastructure i.e., the pipes that facilitate the flow of data. This is a very significant investment and as we live in a free market system, the service providers are free to set the internet prices. The IIM people of these service providers can put as many variables in their excel sheets before arriving at the price per kb of data. There is content on one side be it social networking(FB, twitter), ecommerce(flipkart, amazon) or over the top applications like zomato, bookmyshow, whatsapp and the other side is the user base accessing them. Service providers through their pipes play the all important role of connecting these two. The content providers should employ their people to develop it such a way that the users prefer them over their competitors and the users should at any point of time be free to access what they want. The service providers cannot interrupt these pipes such that users can only access one specific group of websites and not the other. It should neither ask the content providers for money for preferential treatment nor the users for speeding up few websites at a preferential cost. We as users should have the right to choose the OTT application of our choice solely based on its merits and demerits rather than the applications or their competitors paying up the service providers. Think of it like the electricity bill discriminated by the manufacturer of the air conditioner or refrigerator we have in our homes. Think of it like our gas bill being discriminated by the cutlery and cuisine we prefer. 

Innovation is the heart of any human endeavor, the innovators as such face many hurdles and they shine against all the odds. This is true even to the people working on the next big app or website. The least we could do is to provide them is net neutrality. Let them innovate freely and come up with next Facebook/Amazon/Whatsapp, We shall decide whether they make the cut or not based on their creative abilities and nothing else. Let the service providers continue to innovate on better ways of cutting costs rather charging the content providers / users.

Why the debate all of a sudden about the net neutrality you ask? Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, the regulator of all telecom activities in India has come up with a consultative paper on developing a regulatory framework for Over The Top applications, It can be accessed at here . If you’re any bit like me, you shall lose interest after reading just the contents page. The Reserve Bank of India guidelines on Implementing Advanced approaches in operational risk in India is the single document that I am supposed to read as a part of my day job and I haven’t read it fully in last 2 years. The good folks at medianama have created this abridged version here for us to understand it fully. The gist is Telecom companies of India want to charge preferentially for the Applications and break the premise of the net neutrality. TRAI has come up with a consultative document to seek opinion from the public. There is a very good chance the telecom lobby might win this argument and TRAI can come up with guidelines regulating such an internet space if we don’t act to save the internet. Saving the internet is now very easy, as easy as you save a traumatic child by sharing the picture on your facebook feed, two clicks. Goto http://www.savetheinternet.in/ and click on send your response. The mail with detailed response shall be sent from your email ID to TRAI in less than a minute. Also, pat your back because you’ve taken part in the struggle the save the open internet.

I am in no way an expert on the entire concept of net neutrality. Since the debate has been public I have spent my time reading up interpretations, views of various people. I am adding up the best I have found here for reference if you do plan to read up more.

Medianama runs speical articles dedicated to net neutrality, this can be found here

Mahesh Murthy has a better and easier to understand write up on how telecom companies are screwing us, found here

John Oliver’s video on net neutrality is very popular in US and ultimately FCC has come in support of Net neutrality, found here

AIB has come up with a video supporting net neutrality, found here

Big repository of links on Net neutrality can be found here

*Image sourced from internet, not own